From the Principal
From the Principal – Term 4, Week 8
The end of Term 4 is one filled with celebration, as we take opportunities to reflect on the great deal of work and the innumerable successes of the year. Collecting together at events such as the Sports Presentation Evening, the Creative Arts Awards Night, Speech Night, Night of Reflection and the K-9 Celebration Day is a great pleasure – they are wonderful and poignant occasions – full of life and celebration, but they can also be laced with sadness as we farewell some students and staff.
Amongst those events are two of the most significant – the Year 12 and Year 6 Graduation Assemblies, where we have the great privilege of recognising the contribution that these students have made to the College and their respective campuses, and, in some cases, say farewell.
Of course, the events are quite different. In the case of Year 6, we have a group of children on the verge of adolescence and ready to embark on new challenges. A small number choose to move schools to find those challenges, and to them we wish luck, say thank you and ask that they stay in touch. For that vast majority staying with us and moving to Secondary, there can be tearful farewells to teachers and a campus that they have known and loved, but also great excitement, fueled by our Year 6 transitions days on which they spent time on Secondary with their new teachers and friends, as they get ready for the adventures of Year 7.
Farewelling Year 12 students is a different thing, and it is undoubtedly an emotional time for students, staff and parents. These wonderful students, as learners, leaders, athletes and performers, have made an enormous contribution to the growth and development of this College, and some of them have done so over 13 years.
I’m a future focused person, and so it is in my nature to see and get excited by the adventures ahead of them. I love a challenge, and I want the departing Year 12s to feel that way too. At these events this year (English teacher alert!) I asked them to consider Ulysses, as presented by my favourite dead poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, as an example of why.
The story of Ulysses is one of a life of action and war. King of the small isle of Ithaca, he spent many years at sea adventuring and defending his island. He was a proud citizen of Ithaca, deeply loving of and connected to it and its people.
But Ulysses spent much time away and at war, most famously the decade long Trojan War in which he played a significant part, and for his journey home to Ithaca – a journey that was an endurance test that took another ten years at sea. After 20 years away from home, the thought of returning to Ithaca is all consuming for Ulysses. He couldn’t wait to get there, naturally. His deep connection to that place made him sad and full of longing, it drove him forward. It was the place he knew best, drew comfort from and called home.
But upon his return there, Ulysses finds that he has outgrown it. His character, shaped over all of those years, has meant that the island of Ithaca, always physically small, seemed even more so now in his mind. Tennyson in his poem uses beautiful imagery of gleaming silver turned to rust and blazing fires turned ashy hearths, to suggest that the appeal of Ithaca has diminished in Ulysses’ mind. He still loves the place, but he knows that the time has come for him to leave forever.
And so Ulysses makes a decision, a hard one that causes him tears and regret, but a necessary one – to leave.
In his verse, Tennyson shows us that Ulysses knows there are risks associated with leaving: the comforts of home that he knows so well will be gone, the storms of the sea could present him with challenges, more war and difficulty may await. But he is not deterred by any of those things, and, famously in the poem, Tennyson presents two particularly strong images to help us understand that decision.
The first is the metaphor of a rainbow on the horizon, an “arch wherethrou gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades forever and forever when I move.’ It’s a clever image, playing on the idea that a rainbow, as an optical illusion, is something that you can never close the distance on – as you chase it, it’s moves away from you. Tennyson’s point is of course that the ‘untraveled world’ – the adventure and excitement that awaits – is never ending. Chase it and experience it, you might, but reach the end of it you will not.
The second is the poem’s conclusion, when Ulysses, having admitted that his adventure ahead holds many unknowns, proclaims that in his boat he and his sailors will ‘Push off, and sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all the western stars .. to move heaven and earth … to strive, to seek to find, and not to yield.’
This is a powerful finish, and the purpose in Ulysses’ words is clear – the world is a brilliant place full of adventure, and he will not rest until he has seen it all.
And here at the end of Term 4 and proudly looking at each of the Year 12s as they passed through the gates for the last time, the romantic poetry lover in me could only watch on with pride as they start chasing their own rainbows, setting sail beyond whatever sunset they each have their hearts set on, taking opportunities to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.
Those Year 6 students, about to move to Secondary, and those Year 12s, heading out into the world – they are feeling nervous, but I say with great confidence that they are ready. Ready to go into the world full of confidence and pride, ready to chase their dreams.
We know them as kind, generous, good humoured, positive and inclusive human beings, capable of great impact in the next stages of their lives. And that, as Principal, is all that I can hope and wish for.
2018 has been a big year for the students, staff and parents of our community, as we have grown together through experiences which have got our students ready for the next stage of their lives.
Please enjoy the well-earned holiday ahead, seek out adventure at every turn, go with God and keep safe.
Fill the time between today and that when I see you next with joy, and have a most holy and happy Christmas.